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Video: Michael Douglas’ son sentenced to jail

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    >>> just ahead .

    >>> let us begin with the tragic fall of cameron douglas , the 31-year-old son of actor michael douglas . on tuesday he was sentenced to five years in prison on drug charges. nbc 's amy robach has details.

    >> reporter: good morning. cameron douglas has struggled with drugs most of his life. his a-list family rallied around him asking the judge for leniency, a campaign that seemed to work but not before a stern warning from the judge who called this sentence a last chance. in a manhattan federal courtroom tuesday, cameron douglas heard his fate -- five years in prison for drug trafficking , followed by five years of supervised release.

    >> this is a big win for cameron douglas and his defense team. some people may say, five years? that's a lot of time. for this amount of drugs and these kind of crimes? this is a very lenient sentence.

    >> reporter: the son and grandson of hollywood royalty, cameron pled guilty in january to distributing large amounts of meth and cocaine over a three-year period, following a bust in a swanky downtown hotel . defense material suggests the hopeful actor and part-time deejay turned to drugs at age 13 , a way of coping with his absentee parents and the expectations of growing up in a famous family . in a letter to judge richard burman, can ron 's mother writes, "i must admit that my immediate reaction when i learned my son's crime was one of guilt." cam ro, who served as best man at his father's 2000 wedding to kathericatherine zeta- jones received words of support from his stepmother as well. when he refused treatment in 2006 , michael douglas cut his son off from the family fortune. it was then that cameron turned from user to dealer, supporting a debilitating habit reportedly shooting heroin six times a day. michael douglas was in court on tuesday to support his son. in his own handwritten letter to the judge, he says, "i have some idea of the pressure of finding your own identity with a famous father. i do believe out of this adversity he will be a positive citizens . i don't want to see him break." but experts say this prison sentence is only the beginning of a long road to reform .

    >> if this young man doesn't get involved in recovery , over the course of whatever period of time he's incarcerated, he'll return to drug use when he gets back out. you can imagine he'll not have much else to live for when you gets out.

    >> before the sentencing cameron told the court he was now sober for the first time in his adult life and he admits he has squandered a lot of past opportunities to now turn his life around. meredith ?

    >> amy robach , thank you very much .

TODAY staff and wire
updated 4/21/2010 8:59:04 AM ET 2010-04-21T12:59:04

A judge sentenced Michael Douglas' son on drug charges to five years in prison Tuesday, calling it his "last chance to make it."

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman announced the sentence after hearing 31-year-old Cameron Douglas apologize, admitting that he had squandered a lot of opportunities to turn his life around.

Michael Douglas appeared at the hearing, submitting a handwritten letter to the judge. "I have some idea of the pressure of finding your own identity with a famous father," the elder Douglas wrote. "I do believe out of this adversity he will be a positive citizen. I don't want to see him break."

Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, Cameron Douglas' stepmother, also submitted a letter to Berman. "He is a caring, considerate, worthy human being," Zeta-Jones wrote.

Early in a sentencing hearing that stretched more than an hour, the judge was skeptical. He said he was not confident that Douglas would turn his back on drugs after pleading guilty in January to charges that he dealt large quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine.

He noted that he had read at least 37 letters from family, friends and supporters who "believe he has finally bottomed out in terms of his addiction and may be ready to turn his life around."

Berman, though, said: "In my estimation, that will be a very difficult chore. I think this case and this sentencing may well be his last chance to make it."

Too lenient?
Given the allegations, Cameron Douglas should consider himself lucky, said NBC chief legal analyst Dan Abrams. "Some people may say, 'Five years — that's a lot of time.' For this amount of drugs and these ... crimes, this is a very lenient sentence," Abrams said.

A charge of conspiracy to distribute drugs carries a mandatory 10 years in prison by law, but the judge said the government had agreed that Douglas qualified for a lesser sentence. It had been revealed at a pretrial hearing that Douglas had tried to cooperate.

Berman said letters written on Cameron's behalf failed to note the damage drugs do to society.

Berman described how Douglas had abused drugs since age 13 and noted that he had been sober in prison since last August, his longest drug-free stint since his teenage years.

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The sentence was a rejection of a request by the defense that Douglas be sentenced to time served or, at most, three and a half years in prison.

When given a chance to speak, Douglas said he had missed seeing how valuable were opportunities to overcome his addiction to heroin earlier in life.

"As a result, I squandered a lot of them," he said. "If I should be so fortunate as to have another chance, I will never squander that opportunity."

He said he felt the full support of his family for the first time in his life and missed "so dearly being involved in my true passion in life ... which is being an entertainer, putting a smile on people's faces."

Prior to the sentencing, Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas cited in a handwritten letter Cameron's childhood in a "bad marriage" and "the pressure of finding your own identity with a famous father."

AP and TODAY contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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